Just to clarify, I do plan to actually enter Saudi Arabia before the end of my travels. I just counted this transit trip as the Guinness rules say that it is okay. But I have my visa, and I will be spending a few days in Riyadh in October or November of 2018. This post only focuses on my first visit and I will have a much more in depth post about my actual visit once it takes place. I look forward to visiting soon!
I had another great night and breakfast at Rove Hotel Trade Centre before spending my morning working on my blog at Rove. I had a long day (and night) to come and didn’t want to wear myself out trying to get out for an hour or so before my flight. I bid all of the awesome people at Rove Hotel Trade Centre farewell before taking the metro to Dubai Airport (DXB) to leave the UAE and head to Saudi Arabia. It’s a huge airport but as long as you know your terminal it is pretty simple to navigate.
The flight into Saudi Arabia was thankfully not a long one (that will be the flight out). I will be staying in the airport in Saudi Arabia which, according to Guinness, is within the rules. I would obviously prefer to go through immigration and get a passport stamp as I anticipate doing wherever possible, but unfortunately a visa of any kind here can cost U.S. citizens upwards of $850 if you have no connections to the country, which I obviously don’t. I was also glad to not have to deal with the Jeddah airport more than I already would as this past year it was voted the worst airport in the world - comforting, right?
Upon landing it was interesting to look out over the city. The most notable and completely unexpected thing that I saw? An Ikea. It was weird. When we landed it took a while for the bus to take us to the airport, and upon arrival in the airport I found the transit desk. I then went through a weird transit lounge and out the other side to go back through security. It was definitely my strangest security screening of all time. I have been in separate lines for women before but here the women are taken into a separate room. The screening is then performed by women at least and it didn’t take a while and was basically just a TSA equivalent pat down.
After security I ended up in duty free which was pretty barren but interesting to see what was there. I had a picture taken in duty free (the only place I could find a sign with the airport’s name on it) and then walked around the tiny terminal. There was a Baskin Robbins and a few other small stores. What is so strange to me about this airport is how wealthy of a country Saudi Arabia is to have such a depressing major international hub, but oh well. There are a lot of strange things about this country and this is the least of their worries I’m sure.
I then found a place to sit in the packed terminal before heading to my gate for London. I met two really cool women who were from Dubai (but actually Nigerian) who I got to be my witnesses for the country. I was worried about finding someone who spoke English but it wasn’t too much of an issue! They were really interesting to talk to, especially during the really long wait to check our computers. Yes, I said check our computers..
This has been a thing for a year or so now on flights from the Middle East and Africa to countries like the U.K. and U.S. ever since a plane blew up in Egypt. I’m not exactly sure how checking the computers would help if one were to blow up but oh well. It took forever which was annoying because the definitely do this every day. There was just a lot of waiting before finally, they checked both my computer and iPad in a tiny cushioned box, along with everyone else's’ on the flight.
I finally boarded and really lucked out - I had an exit row seat, which I had chosen for free in the online check-in, but it was one with a huge gap in front of it. It was a six hour flight to London so I was looking for any help that I could get as far as sleep goes. I got maybe two or three hours of very uncomfortable sleep before arriving at Heathrow very early in the morning. I won’t have long in London, but hopefully enough to at least do something!
49 countries down, 147 to go.
Read about my second day in Saudi Arabia here.